Sky Mobile review: The best mobile network for big and small-screen entertainment?
Along with BT and Virgin, Sky is one of the few providers in the UK with all the services in place for what you’d call the quadruple play – broadband, TV, home phone and mobile from one provider in one single account. You can have Sky Mobile on its own, too, and it’s great value in its own right, but it makes even more sense if you want to watch TV on the go.
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Sky Mobile review: What do you get?
Sky has found some innovative ways to differentiate its service. You can choose to keep your existing phone or buy a new one. If you do opt for a new handset then Sky has a choice of two interesting Swap options, where you keep the phone for either one year or two years, then return it to Sky and swap it for a newer model.
This effectively means buying the phone on credit and paying Sky back in the usual monthly instalments. When it’s time to swap, Sky buys back your old device and puts the money towards paying off the credit (the interest-free loans involved last for 24 and 30 months). You’re then ready to go with your new phone.
The first option, Swap 12, comes with a slightly higher monthly price and upfront costs, but you can upgrade every year. The second, Swap 24 is cheaper but – you guessed it – you can only swap every two years. Buy an iPhone XR, for example, and the phone itself will cost you £32 a month plus £99 upfront on the one-year package, or £26 plus nothing if you buy in for two years. Just be aware that, either way, there are some risks. Damage your phone and you might hit a lower buyback price, leaving you with less to put towards your new phone.
The phone only makes up part of the monthly cost. You’ll also have to splash out between £6 and £25 for a monthly plan (you can buy SIM-only), which gives you a data allowance of 2GB to 30GB and, what’s more, calls and texts are free. This used to be the case only for Sky TV customers; now, however, that caveat has been removed and everyone gets the same deal.
|Monthly fee (1x SIM)||Data||Texts||Minutes|
Free calls and texts aren’t the only benefits. Pay for data on Sky Mobile and it rolls over from month to month, any spare megabytes accumulating in a piggy bank for up to three years, during which time you can draw them out as and when you need them. This makes Sky an attractive option for anyone who needs data in big chunks sporadically but might otherwise waste their allowance.
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With Sky Mobile, not a megabyte is wasted. Tethering is also supported without any limitations, so you’re free to use your phone as a mobile hotspot and surf on your tablet or laptop.
There’s currently a deal on that give customers triple the data allowance on the £12/4GB plan triple, giving them 12GB for the same price if they take out a contract before 27 June.
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Sky Mobile review: Family Plans
Sky doesn’t call it a Family Plan, but you can buy up to five SIMs on a single Sky account, changing the make-up of SIMs and plans on a monthly basis. There are two advantages to this. Firstly, everyone in the family can contribute to and access data from the same piggybank, so if you have some heavy users and some light users, the lighter users can support the heavyweights. Secondly, everyone in the household benefits from free texts and calls. This makes Sky Mobile a reasonably affordable family option as you only pay for the data, but it’s worth checking carefully against BT Mobile’s family plans to see how the two pan out for you.
Sky Mobile review: Coverage and Connection Speeds
Like Giffgaff, Sky is a virtual network running over O2’s cellular network, although Sky claims that a deeper level of integration with O2’s network gives it an advantage over other virtual operators. O2’s performance and coverage are improving, but the latest RootMetrics scores (taken from the second half of 2018) still place it behind EE, Vodafone and Three for connection speeds across the UK, coming fourth out of the big four networks for data speeds. The network is strongest in Northern Ireland, where it goes toe-to-toe with EE for overall performance, reliability, call performance and text speeds, but elsewhere it lags behind its rivals.
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On the plus side, 4G coverage is improving. While there are some coastal and rural areas where you’re stuck with a 2G/3G signal or 3G instead of 4G/LTE, most of the UK now has 4G access through O2 with a claimed 99% outdoor 4G coverage. What’s more, the network could see further improvements, as O2 adopts new 4G bandwidth and prepares to roll out 5G later in the year. Sky is expected to get 5G at the same time as its host network.
Sky Mobile review: Roaming
You can use your data, calls and texts allowance within 30 EU and EEA destinations at no extra cost, and Sky also has provisions in place for ten further destinations, including Australia and the US, through its Roaming Passport Plus programme. Here you pay £6 a day to use your data, calls and text allowance. Outside those areas, charges vary, with call charges rising to £2.16 or even £3.60 per minute in many countries, with data charged at £2.16 to 4.32 per MB (and higher in the most remote regions). If you spend a lot of time travelling to countries outside the EU and the Passport Plus programme, either buy a SIM locally or opt for a network with cheaper or more extensive roaming provisions, like Giffgaff or Three.
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Sky Mobile review: Other services and spending caps
Sky’s other big selling point is its integration of TV and mobile services. For a start, Sky Go Extra is bundled in, giving you the ability to stream Sky TV and movies through the Sky Go app on up to four devices. What’s more, any data used in watching Sky Apps (live streams via Sky Go, for instance) isn’t counted against your monthly allowance.
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Users of Sky’s TV services can also sync recordings to their Sky Mobile phone, streaming shows while away from home over 4G or Wi-Fi or downloading them while at home to watch later. Annoyingly, any data used in syncing is counted as part of your monthly allowance, so you can’t go crazy, but it’s a useful bonus.
Like the other major mobile networks Sky now supports spending caps. You can have a different cap for each SIM attached to your account which sets the maximum you can spend on out-of-allowance charges. Sky will send notifications as you near your cap and you can change the cap at any time online.
Sky Mobile review: Customer satisfaction
Sky Mobile didn’t feature in the latest Ofcom customer service league tables, although it has had fewer complaints than other phone/TV/broadband providers, including Virgin Media and BT.
Sky Mobile review: Verdict
It used to be the case that Sky Mobile was only a good deal if you were a Sky TV customer, but with the free calls and texts now benefiting all customers, coupled with the data rollover and swap features it’s a genuine all-round contender. The prices are low, and the data rollover feature gives you the chance to cut your data costs right back, particularly if you need to keep the whole family kitted out with contracts. Throw in the Sync features and the ability to stream Sky TV without using up your data and it’s a great choice.